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November 18, 2017 | ‎כ״ט במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח‎

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Me Too: Jewish Women Reveal their Sexual Assault and Harassment Experiences

Me Too: Jewish Women Reveal their Sexual Assault and Harassment Experiences

Years ago, when Jill Moray Reichman was in her early 20s, she was working a summer job as a receptionist.

Two weeks into the job, an older secretary at her work casually mentioned that every day, their boss, a man, would call her into his office and chase her around until she sat on his lap. The secretary would laugh it off and then go back to work. It happened to other women on the job, too.

After that, Moray Reichman made sure to avoid being alone with her boss. Then, one day, she announced to her boss that she had gotten booked to play her guitar and sing at a local coffee shop. She told him how excited she was as he stood at the entrance of her office.

“He said, ‘How great!,’” said Moray Reichman. “He took that opportunity to grab me, pull my body into his, and try to kiss me. I pushed him away.”

Moray Reichman told her mother, who said that she should stick it out and not mention the incident to her father. “I was told it was only for a few weeks, no big deal,” she said. “I needed the money for college and I probably wouldn’t be able to replace that job and the salary I was getting. It was not a big enough deal to worry about or tell anyone else about it. But obviously, it was, because she didn’t want my father to know.”

At this point, it was difficult for Moray Reichman to return to her workplace since she didn’t feel safe. She didn’t know when her boss, who signed her paycheck, would be close enough to grab her again. She said she “couldn’t believe that the other women all felt that it was just one of those things we women all have to just put up with.”

Jill Moray Reichman’s old headshot.

A few years later, when Moray Reichman was working as a hand model in New York City, she went to a “go-see” meeting with a photographer, whom she would be working with if she got the job. Afterward, the photographer told her she did a good job, pulled out his genitals and told her to “hold this.”

She made a joke to try and make the situation less awkward, but the photographer got angry, turned around, and zipped up his pants. While he was distracted, she slipped out the front door. Later on, she alluded to the situation to her agent. “He just said ‘Welcome to the world of modeling,’” she said.

Moray Reichman is not alone. These past few days, social media has been flooded with women sharing their stories of sexual harassment and assault under the “Me too” campaign.

Some simply tweet or post to Facebook, “Me too,” while others go into detail about what happened to them. Many celebrities have even spoken up, including Alyssa Milano, who started the campaign, Jennifer Lawrence, and Lady Gaga.

Jewish women all over the world are also having their voices heard. Andrea, who lives in Canada, posted about her multiple accounts with sexual harassment and assault.

“The gay men in university who thought that being gay gave them permission to grope me (they told me that – and they’d undergone ‘sensitivity training’),” she said. “The acquaintance in university who put his hand under the back of my shirt repeatedly (three layers), even after I told him to back off and, a few days later, asked me if I was ‘feeling better.’ (To which I pointed out that I called him out for being a dick because he was being one. Also, he had a girlfriend.)”

Lily Smythe of England has been documenting sexual harassment she’s been subjected to online for some time now. She posts screenshots on her Facebook page of the abuse she’s undergone.

“I know that I’m not alone in saying that I have suffered from sexual harassment online,” she said. “I’ve been made the target of shocking and abusive behavior from people whom I have never met, and yet despite the distance between us, I felt afraid and violated.”

The abusive messages a man sent to Smythe

Even though Smythe said she took steps to stop the abuse, “it continues to this day, as can be seen in the messages above, where a man sent me hundreds of messages and emails, created a website about me, and even threatened to kill himself when I wouldn’t marry him. Online harassment is real, and worst of all, many women feel unable to reach out for help as so few people recognize what a huge impact it has on us.”

On October 15, Mia Adler Ozair of Los Angeles posted her own #metoo account on her personal Facebook page. “#Metoo like the time I was young and single and working as a waitress and wore a wedding ring just to keep guys from hitting on me but a guy insisted on leaving me the room key to his hotel after reassuring me that he is married too so it’s not a big deal . . . I was 22.”

Adler Ozair continued, “Or like the time just before I was being put under for surgery at the age of 23 and just before the anesthesia completely kicked in I remember one of the male doctors lifting up my gown and looking at my naked chest . . . or the time my English professor offered me a better grade on my paper if I would go out for an innocent drink with him . . . the list goes on. And my list is not nearly as bad as most women I know.”

As survivors come out, women may feel both comforted and triggered when they recall their own stories. Sarah Lee, LCSW, a psychotherapist in Los Angeles, said that the campaign shows that “sexual assault/rape/harassment is far more common than most people realize. It is an extremely isolating and shameful experience.”

Lee says long-term treatment is key to recovery.

If you have been sexually assaulted or harassed, you first need to focus on safety, said Lee. “Get yourself the acute medical attention, safety, and/or advocacy you need.”

There are a number of organizations, like RAINN, Peace Over Violence, Calcasa (in California), and The Rape Foundation that can help guide you through the healing and legal processes.

Once you have gotten the immediate attention you need, Lee said it’s important to seek out “longer-term support that will help you to process the trauma rather than become stuck in it.”

If you want a professional who specializes in sexual trauma, you can go to Psychology Today, look for local therapists, and get in touch.

“Talk therapy is so important,” said Lee. “There are various trauma approaches, but the most important thing to look for in a therapist is someone who has experience and training in working with trauma.”

Author: Kylie Ora Lobell

Kylie Ora Lobell is Jewess in chief of Jewess. She is also a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, comedian Danny Lobell, and their two dogs, six chickens, and tortoise.